Exhibition examines relationship between senses

The fall exhibition at Cultural Arts Center is bringing people to their senses.

“Sight of Music” asked artists to explore the intersection of the senses, or the impact of one sense on another, specifically addressing the way people interact with and are inspired by music. Curated and juried by poet Steve Abbott, the exhibition was also juried by CCAD President Dr. Melanie Corn and by Dr. Christopher Purdy of Classical 101 WOSU-FM.

The result is an exhibition with manifold expressions of the theme in both medium and method.

Artist Amery Kessler has two pieces in “Sight of Music.” “[The exhibition is] a good fit for my work,” he said. “My work is sculptural but it's interactive. … [It's] an opportunity to find out what a performance or activity with the object would be. And there's a musical component to these works.”

Kessler's “Sounding Backboard” involves the senses additionally by allowing the viewer/participant to feel the vibrations created by a mbira, or thumb piano, while lying on a board within the work.

“Music or the sound or even the thing itself is a means to what interaction is possible,” Kessler said. “That's where the art is for me.”

“Sight of Music” will also explore the phenomenon of synesthesia, a crossing of the senses that, while manifesting differently in different people, results in some people physically seeing a specific color associated with a sound, tone or pitch.

Synesthesia is very rare; less than one percent of the general population experiences these kinds of connections, according to Ohio State University professor Dr. Anna Gawboy. However, among those with synesthetic perception, the sound-to-color connection is widespread, she said.

“There is a strong historical connection between synesthesia and the very early modernist artists interested in abstraction. They took their inspiration from music as autonomous and non-representative. That's one of the reasons why synesthesia is associated with painting to music," Gawboy said.

Gawboy, with help from musicians from local collective Chamber Brews, will lead a program at CAC on Friday, Oct. 6, examining the association between music and sight as it relates to concepts such as emotion, theme, tone and space. Using the music of composers who “were synesthetes or who had a strong visual component in their scores,” Gawboy said, audience members will be asked to explore their own perceptions of the connections between music and visual arts.

Additional programming will feature original compositions by the Richard Lopez Art Ensemble in response to previous exhibitions in the CAC gallery on Oct. 14, and poetry and dance from Abbott, the Columbus Poets, and Columbus Modern Dance Company on Oct. 20.

Editor's Note: This version of the story has been updated to clarify the small percentage of persons who experience synesthesia.